South Big Data Hub announces awards that apply data science to regional challenges

Ashok Goel's class, Knowledge-Based Artificial Intelligence (CS 4635/7637); Architecture East Room 123 Reinsch-Pierce Family Auditorium

Ashok Goel of Georgia Tech leads one of the three research teams that received awards through the South Big Data Hub Spokes program.

Awards part of $11 million in National Science Foundation Big Data Hub “Spoke” awards

Three research teams in the Southern U.S. will receive funding for projects designed to use data science and data analytics to address challenges related to healthcare, environmental sustainability, and updating and improving power grids. The funding will be awarded through the “Big Data Spokes” program of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Big Data Regional Innovation Hub initiative.

The NSF today announced a total of $11 million in awards that includes 10 Big Data Spokes in four regions. The spoke awards will initiate research in specific areas identified, supported, and organized by the Big Data Hubs in the South, Northeast, Midwest, and West. The spokes reflect the unique priorities and capabilities of the four disparate U.S. geographic regions serviced by the Big Data Hubs.

“The Big Data Spokes advance the goals and regional priorities of each Big Data Hub, fusing the strengths of a range of institutions and investigators and applying them to problems that affect the communities and populations within their regions,” said Jim Kurose, assistant director of NSF for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “We are pleased to be making this substantial investment today to accelerate the nation’s big data R&D innovation ecosystem.”

The Big Data Hubs program was announced in 2015 by the NSF, which provided funding to launch the four regional Hubs. The South Big Data Hub is led jointly by the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Each Hub works to foster multisector collaborations among academia, industry, and government that use data science and big data expertise to solve regional challenges.

“The recipients of our South Hub Spoke awards will address tough problems that require data science and analytics to solve,” said Srinivas Aluru, one of the two lead principal investigators for the South Hub and co-executive director for Georgia Tech’s Institute for Data Engineering and Science. “These projects will help to advance science while finding solutions to real world problems—such as harvesting information from real-time, mobile and wearable devices and building tools to help patients engage with their healthcare providers. Another Spoke project will use data analytics to improve the energy efficiency of smart grids and reduce outages and carbon emissions.”

“The South Big Data Hub spoke awardees will engage industry and stakeholders in new business models to ensure economic growth,” added Stan Ahalt, the South BD Hub lead principal investigator based at the University of North Carolina and director of RENCI. “We are looking forward to working closely with the NSF Spoke research teams to expand the reach as well as the social and economic impact of the South Big Data Hub.”

The recipients of the South Big Data Hub Spoke awards are:

Title: Large Scale Medical Informatics for Patient Care Coordination and Engagement
Principal Investigator: Gari Clifford, interim chair, biomedical informatics, Emory University
Co-PIs: Christopher Rozell, Georgia Tech; Herman Taylor, Morehouse School of Medicine; Indranil Bardhan, University of Texas at Dallas; Donald Adjeroh, West Virginia University; Ahmed Abbasi, University of Virginia; Nitin Agarwal, University of Arkansas
Amount: $1 million over three years

This project brings together six universities to design and construct a patient-focused and personalized health system that addresses the fractured nature of healthcare information and the lack of engagement of individuals in their own healthcare. By taking advantage of the enormous amount of information generated by real-time, mobile and wearable devices and the availability of rich social media data on patient behavior, the team will create a comprehensive picture of patient health and a tool to help manage patients’ engagement with their healthcare providers. As its pilot project, the researchers will focus on African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

Title: Using Big Data for Environmental Sustainability: Big Data + AI Technology = Accessible, Usable, Useful Knowledge
Principal Investigator: Ashok K. Goel, professor of computer science and cognitive science, Georgia Institute of Technology
Co PI: Jennifer Hammock, Smithsonian Institute, in partnership with IBM
Amount: $1 million over three years

As the effects of environmental degradation and climate change grow, the need for research and education in biological diversity, ecological modeling and environmental sustainability becomes critical. This project brings together scientists from a dozen institutions in academia, government, and industry to translate big data into meaningful knowledge that supports research and education in environmental sustainability. The project will focus on the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), the world’s largest database of biological species, and other biodiversity data sources. Its goals are to make this data more accessible and usable by integrating artificial intelligence tools, modeling, and simulation.

Title: Smart Grids Big Data
Principal Investigator: Mladen Kezunovic, Eugene E. Webb Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A & M University
Co-PIs: Santiago C. Grijalva, Georgia Institute of Technology; Zoran Obradovic, Temple University
Amount: $1 million over three years

The introduction of new technologies for monitoring electrical power grids has led to an abundance of data that can be used to improve power generation and transmission and to enhance customer service. However, this data is still vastly underutilized. This project aims to increase our understanding of the merged data collected from physical systems in order to better understand how energy flows through grids, how to prevent emergencies such as blackouts and brownouts, and how to improve asset management and increase energy efficiency.

About the South Big Data Hub
The South Hub is one of four regional Big Data Hubs that work to accelerate partnerships among people in business, academia, and government who apply data science and analytics to help solve regional and national challenges. The South Hub also facilitates data sharing, shared cyberinfrastructure and services, and data science education and workforce development. The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Institute of Technology co-lead the South Hub, which is funded in part by the National Science Foundation. The South Hub serves 16 states and the District of Columbia—from Texas to Delaware—with more than 500 members from universities, corporations, foundations, and cities committing their support.  For more information, please see

Related Links:

Georgia Tech News Release
National Science Foundation News Release
Midwest Big Data Hub
Northeast Big Data Hub
West Big Data Hub